Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Weaving conceits: random thoughts

I've been going through notes and essays from a few years ago when I was really interested in weaving as a conceit, or extended metaphor, for describing techno-social, um, fabrication:

"At a technical level, weaving is to form by interlacing: warp elements are held stable while weft elements are moved through the framework. At the metaphorical level, we can also weave the fabric of society, although this implies that the collective body serves as the stable warp element and the individual body as the mobile weft. A related metaphor would be weaving our way through a crowd, in which the practice of weaving can be twisted to involve moving a stable element through a mobile element: the person navigates the chaotic crowd to emerge (on the other side) intact.

Technically, weaving involves the production of a textile, or fabric, and so weaving is always already fabrication. To fabricate is to construct something new from existing parts; to assemble or aggregate disparate materials into a whole. We devise in our minds new combinations or applications, and we create devices (something devised or contrived and mechanisms designed to serve special purposes)."

My recent interest in knitting has rekindled my interest in these ideas and I am working to fit them into my dissertation discussions of mobility, stability and power. Along these lines, I was reminded of xurban_collective's 2002 project Knit++. Ryan Griffis describes the project and draws out its political dimensions:

"_Knit++_ presents an interface that allows visitors to navigate through narrative, pictorial, and animated information that, when seen in the context of the project, makes connections between textiles, computer and social networks, and institutional power ..."

This connection between weaving and Luddites and power fascinates me. Helen Whitehead's 2001 project Web Warp & Weft also connects it to computer technology:

"There are surprising and unusual resonances within the creation of what might on the surface seem very different products: both [weaving and the Web] are concerned with frames, print, pattern, layers, colour, nomenclature, technology, narratives, commerce, leisure and much more. The Luddites in Nottinghamshire in the early 19th century rendered stocking-frames unusable as a protest about the terrible treatment of the workers. The industry then was in a difficult state, as it is now. The word 'Luddite' has now moved from the textile to the computer industry, becoming a term to describe all those opposed to progress in computer and machine technologies. And most recently the fall of the dot.coms has mirrored the fall of the textile industries."

Now how to bring this back to mobility, stability, power and the conceit of weaving...?

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